SAINT ANTONIO – The World Affairs Council of San Antonio will present Waheeda Thawerbhoy Kara as the 2023 International Citizen of the Year for her humanitarian and civic work on Wednesday at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts.
Kara has been fighting for social justice for over 35 years.
Born in Chittagong, Bangladesh, she fled with her family from their homeland amid war and genocide. Kara left behind all earthly possessions, relatives, a multi-generational family business and lifelong memories to seek refuge in a foreign land.
This move left her with a strong sense of culture shock when she first came to the United States and attended public school.
After expressing her discomfort, her family helped her find her place at a small Catholic school where the spiritual teachings and conservative dress were much more in line with her own. It was at this young age that Kara gained an understanding and a strong appreciation for interfaith unity, a large part of her work today.
“Here I am, you know, a young Muslim girl who feels at home in a Catholic school. It made me think about how important interfaith unity is, dialogue, and how important it is for us to do things together, ” Kara said.
Years later, she moved to San Antonio, and she used her past to inspire her to act.
Her experience as a child refugee had a profound impact on her adult life today. She is part of more than two dozen organizations, projects and committees throughout the San Antonio area.
She currently serves as President of the National Inter-organizational Collaborative, Vice President at Intellica Financial Services, Interfaith Committee Member at the San Antonio Food Bank, and Advisory Board Member at the UTHSC Mays Cancer Center.
Over the years, she has served as a national board member for FOCUS Humanitarian Assistance, as vice president of the Aga Khan Foundation Southwest USA, as president of Abode (Contemplative Care for the Dying), president of the staff organization at Our Lady of the Lake University, president of SOL Interfaith Center, on advisory boards for Awaaz – Victims of Domestic Violence, the McNair Scholars Program and as a board member for Musical Bridges Around the World, Our AIM Foundation, D4D Daughters for Detection and the San Antonio Cancer Educators Collaborative.
“Whatever happens locally always has a global effect. We must remember that,’ she said.
Her major work with the city of San Antonio started in 2008 when she co-founded the Muslim Cultural Heritage Society. She brought the first ever city-sponsored Eid festival in partnership with several organizations, including the San Antonio Museum of Art.
She was then tasked with bringing the Aga Khan Foundation’s Partnership Walk to Alleviate Global Poverty to San Antonio, which began in 2012 and runs annually to this day.
Most recently, she was appointed by the Mayor of San Antonio to serve on the Mayor’s Council on Police Community Relations.
“Never underestimate the time you can give to service. Your 30 minutes could actually have a ripple effect and actually change someone’s life,” she said.
The World Affairs Council will present the award at the 2023 International Citizen of the Year awards dinner at the Tobin Center on Wednesday at 18.00.
To buy tickets for the event, click here.
Copyright 2023 by KSAT – All rights reserved.